Saving Planet Earth

e2, a series on PBS now in its third season, profiles the cutting-edge individuals who are trying to create a better quality of life. Narrated by actors Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, the series explores solutions to environmental and social problems we face today, with subjects ranging from design, energy, transport, water, food and urban development. Produced by Kontentreal, e2 began shooting in September 2005, and director/producer Tad Fettig and cinematographer Robert Humphreys have been racking up frequent-flier miles ever since.

Originally created as a design series, Fettig realized he could apply the design solutions to almost any issue. This season, Fettig and Humphreys have profiled renowned architect Renzo Piano and his design for the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, the efforts to rebuild New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, the effort to reduce traffic and pollution in Seoul, Korea, and Paris’ ambitious bike initiative. The show also has visited Cairo, Nova Scotia, Melbourne, London, Rotterdam and many other exotic locations.

For the series, Humphreys captured 720p24 DVCPRO video using Panasonic HDX900 and HVX200 cameras, both fitted with P+S Technik Pro35 and Mini35 lens adapters. Their 35mm lens set includes a set of Canon/Schneider Optics Century tilt lenses, Zeiss 10mm and 14mm Distagons and an Angenieux 25-250 HR zoom. Humphreys typically shoots with the HDX900, with Fettig shooting with the HVX200 as a B camera for run-and-gun type footage. According to Humphreys, the two cameras matched up perfectly in terms of image quality.

"Once you put them through post, nobody can tell me, one way or another, which one is which," he says. "While I was getting all of the wide stuff with a 24mm on the HDX900, Tad would get detail shots with a 90mm tilt lens, so if he went wide, I’d go tight. We complemented each other on the shoot using the two cameras, and it also greatly sped up our shooting time."

For the overall look, Humphreys was influenced by renowned still photographers such as Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Sebastião Salgado. Humphreys and Fettig’s main goal is to take classic still photography and set it into motion.

"Salgado is one of those guys who you know has met the people that he shoots, even if it’s just for one brief moment," says Humphreys. "I didn’t look at architectural photography at all, but more the human content of photography. The emotional response is definitely what we were going for."